Photos and Words

A personal blog about thoughts | moods | photos by Arnaldo Pellini

Posts by Arnaldo Pellini

Shoun and His Mother

Pyhäjärvi, Tampere 2022

A wonderful Zen story that I re-discovered this week thanks to a friend and which gave me confort. It is from an old little book I bought in 1989 in Cremona (Italy) which was published by the Italian publisher Adelphi: 101 Storie Zen (101 Zen Stories) by Nyogen Senzaki and Paul Reps.

Shoun and His Mother

Shoun became a teacher of Soto Zen. When he was still a student his father passed away, leaving him to care for his old mother.

Whenever Shoun went to a meditation hall he always took his mother with him. Since she accompanied him, when he visited monasteries he could not live with the monks. So he would build a little house and care for her there. He would copy sutras, Buddhist verses and in this manner receive a few coins for food.

When Shoun bought fish for his mother, the people would scoff at him, for a monk is not supposed to eat fish. But Shoun did not mind. His mother, however, was hurt to see others laugh at her son. Finally she told Shoun: “I think I will become a nun. I can be a vegetarian too.”

She did and they studied together. Shoun was fond of music and was a master of the harp, which his mother also played. On full-moon nights they used to play together.

One night a young lady passed by their house and heard music. Deeply touched, she invited Shoun to visit her the next evening and play. He accepted the invitation. A few days later he met the young lady on the street and thanked her for her hospitality. Others laughed at him. He had visited the home of a woman of the streets.

One day Shoun left a distant temple to deliver a lecture. A few months afterwards he returned home to find his mother dead. Friends had not known where to reach him, so the funeral was then in progress.

Shoun walked up and hit the coffin with his staff. “Mother, your son has returned,” he said. “I am glad to see you have returned son,” he answered for his mother.

“I”m glad too,” Shoun responded. Then he announced to the people about him: The funeral ceremony is over. You may bury the body.”

When Shoun was old he knew his end was approaching. He asked his disciples to gather around him in the morning telling them he was going to pass on at noon. Burning incense before the picture of his mother and his old teacher, he wrote a poem:

For sixty years I lived as best I could,
Making my way in this world.
Now the rain has ended, the clouds are clearing,
The blue sky has a full moon.

His disciples gathered about him, reciting a sutra, and Shoun passed on during the invocation.

Maybe it is because of ….

Complexity, Tampere 2022

Maybe it is because I am working with colleagues on the design of a research project that will apply a systems research framework to EdTech and education. Maybe it is because of the book I am reading: Steps to an Ecology of Mind by Gregory Bateson. Maybe it is because the days are getting longer here in Finland and when I am out in the early morning to walk our dog I notice the intricate patterns of the snow-covered tree branches. Maybe it is because of all these reasons being interlinked with each other that I notice the complex patter of the trees, their branches, the lakeshore, the snow, the Arboretum park, the frozen lake, etc etc etc. 

This is why I started to carry my camera during these morning walks and take photos of what I was not seeing in the same way until a few weeks ago. 

Bench with a view

Bench with a view, Tampere 2022

There is this bench at the end of this line of trees. It stands there looking out at the frozen lake on the other side of the lake. Day. Night. Snow. Rain. It stands there and looks out. I look at it and think about the people who come here and sit on it. Looking at the landscape and are lost in their thoughts. Week after week. Month after month. Some of them are worrying. Others enjoy the fresh air while looking out for their dog. Some sit here every day. Some take a deep breath and try to focus on it, leaving everything else behind and trying to be in the moment for a few seconds.

Winter trees

Winter trees, Tampere 2022

The winter is very slowly giving way to spring. Not that the spring temperatures are here, but there is more light in the morning, A few weeks ago I woudl have taken this photo in the dark. There is light. ThThe winter is very slowly giving way to spring. Not that the spring temperatures are here, but there is more light in the morning, A few weeks ago I would have taken this photo in the dark. There is light. There are more birds in the trees. The snow is still here and this year it keeps falling without stopping, but something new is in the air.

Signs of change

Lamp post, Tampere 2022

The mornings are still dark, but there are subtle signs of change in the air.

I am walking on the path next to the lake. There is mild wind from the East that runs over the empty space of the frozen lake. It feels colder than it actually is. We are at -8C this morning.
The dog stops in the middle of the path and looks at a person wearing a thick red winter jacket that has stopped 20 meters in front of us. I cannot see if it is a man or a woman. S/he looks up on a tree and is pointing a smartphone up.
It is too dark to take a photo with a smartphone. Strange.

I start walking towards that person and the dog follows me, reassured.
We got closer and I hear a new sound. Something I have not heard for some time during these morning walks. There are birds singing on that tree. They are hidden in the dark but we can clearly hear them.

The woman holding the phone up (I can see now that she is a woman) is not taking photos, but actually recording the sound of the birds. She turns towards me and says: “This is nice, isn’t it?”.
It is. It seems like a sound that I had forgotten for some time.


“Yes, they sound a bit like in early spring”, I reply.
“It is,” she says, “the first sign of spring.”

January mornings

Bicycle commute in January, Tampere 2022

This week I want to share some photos from my January morning walks.

January morning are dark. The sunrise is at about 9am. We have already passed the shortest day of the year which is on 21. December, but early morning are still with night darkness and streetlights.

I take our dog for a walk at about 7:15 and in early January i took with me also my camera. I wanted to take photographs of the path I walk every day in the forest and the park along the lake.

The streetlight with ice on them. The snow-covered party. The signposts standing alone in the cold.

Few people pass by on their bicycles on the way to work. The have halogen lights on. Multilayered sport clothes he’s to keep them warm.

We usually see 4-5 other dog owners out for the morning walk. Sometime they get closer and let the dogs meet and sniff at each other. Sometimes they prefer to stay away. We exchange few words to greet each other, with a good day, and then continue walking along the path.

Yeas, the morning in January at dark, but the days are getting longer and over the next few weeks the lights will get brighter and brighter until when the night will disappear completely.

Park bench

Park bench, Tampere 2022

The snows has been falling for several days. The snow machine move during the night to keep the paths cleared. They do that night after night. They move the snow on the side of the paths. There is this bench I pass by every morning. It is half submerged as the snow gets higher and higher. It sits at the edge of the light circle from a lamp post which is alarmingly diagonal. The bench seems trapped and unable to provide the sitting place it is meant to provide. In the meantime the snow continues to fall as we are entering the month of February.

The small farm

The small farm, Kontiola 2021

The farm is small. Four wooden houses and a barn. They create a space on their own. Families have lived here. Different generations under the same roof. They worked the land during the short summer and waited patiently during the winter. Kids walked along the gravel road to get to the primary school no matter how cold, snowy or rainy it was. This old farm was a shelter and place where people lived their lives.

The old barn

The old barn, Niinikumppu 2021

I really like this old barn. Its high roof. The stone and boulder thick walls. The shape of the windows. An old times building.

Winter roads

Winter roads, Niinikumppu 2021

The road is not slippery even though it is covered by a thick layer of dry snow. The air is clear. It is -15 Celsius and no forecast of snowfall. It will be a nice drive. We will get there on time.

Lake walk

Lake walk, Kontiola 2021

The lake is frozen now and a thick layer of snow stops the noises that the ice layers makes. Cracks, pangs, and bubbling sound between water and ice. The snow is like a blanket that puts everything on hold until the temperature starts to rise, the days will get longer, and spring will push to open the door of the winter.

The old house

The old house, Kontiola 2021

Over the years when passing by this wooden house near Kontiola, I have wondered whether it is abandoned or not. I never saw a light on in it. Now, in the winter, the window has a thick layer of ice which means that the house is not heated.

The house sits in the middle of a field. It keeps the grey and brown colour of old wood. There are a couple of pine trees next to it like standing guard. That’s it. Season after season the house stands there.

A family must have lived there? When was that? How long ago did they live? What was their life? Who was the last one living there? Did they have to clear the field from the forest? How hard was it to live there?

I guess it is my curiosity, but I wonder about these questions every time I pass next to it when I am in Eastern Finland visit our relatives

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